Get ready to pay a bit more for electricity to breathe cleaner air.
Florida Power & Light is requesting a small rate increase to cover an estimated $822 million investment to upgrade its "peaking units" to comply with new federal air emissions standards.
FPL is asking to raise rates next year by less than 10 cents per month on a typical household bill that now runs about $95 monthly. It also will seek somewhat larger increases in 2015 and 2016, when the construction is completed, said spokesman Eric Hofmeyer.
At issue are replacements to small power-generating units that kick in when electricity demand peaks, often in hot summer months when Floridians run air-conditioners full blast.
FPL now has 48 peaking units at three power plants -- Port Everglades and Dania Beach in Broward County and Fort Myers in Lee County. Those units use combustion engines from the 1960s that emit nitrogen dioxide at levels beyond new tighter standards.
FPL fires up the smaller units when needed to meet electricity spikes. Last year, the peaking units ran during 145 days and only for short spurts on those days. Each is faster and cheaper to start up than a full-scale power plant, Hofmeyer said.
"You don't need them all the time, but when you need them you really need them," said Randy LaBauve, FPL's vice president of environmental services.
"These units are 40-plus years old. It's time for them to be replaced," said LaBauve.
FPL plans to install larger, more efficient and less polluting peaking units, five in Dania Beach and three in Fort Myers. The new units will rise roughly 95 feet, compared with the 30 feet for existing ones.
Dania Beach Mayor Walter Duke heartily endorses a project that would be environmentally friendly, boost his city's tax base and create temporary construction jobs.
"It seems to be mutually beneficial to FPL and the city" of 30,000 residents, he said.
Florida's Public Service Commission must approve any FPL rate increase.
The Florida Office of Public Counsel, which advocates for the public in utility-related matters, has not yet taken a position on the new rate request.
Plans to upgrade the peaking units are separate from FPL's $1.2 billion project to demolish its oil-powered plant at Port Everglades and replace it with a new more efficient and less polluting one.
FPL plans to bring down the Port Everglades plant, its towering red-striped smokestacks and its peaking units July 16. It will hire about 650 people to build a new plant that runs on natural gas, a cleaner-burning fuel.
Staff Writer David Fleshler contributed to this report.
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